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THE SKIER SCRIBBLER

The student news site of Aspen High School

THE SKIER SCRIBBLER

The student news site of Aspen High School

THE SKIER SCRIBBLER

Has Consumerism Corrupted The Holidays?

A+Christmas+display+in+AJs+Grocery+Store+in+Phoenix%2C+Arizona+on+Nov.+21%2C+2023.
Sara Kershow
A Christmas display in AJ’s Grocery Store in Phoenix, Arizona on Nov. 21, 2023.

Every year there seems to be an increasing pressure to buy your loved ones gifts during the holiday season, and if you don’t it may seem like you don’t care about them. But is a gift that will probably be thrown away within a year, actually the best way to show your love during the holidays? The culture of consumerism in America and around the world has corrupted the holidays into capitalist’s heaven, and the working class nightmare.
All religious and non-religious holidays during November and December include an element of gift-giving. There are some traditional gifts given for holidays like Diwali, Kwanzaa, and Christmas, but overwhelming commercialization has put a burden on people and our planet while celebrating the holidays.
The exchange of gifts for many holidays like Diwali and Christmas is age-old and the custom of gift-giving has always been to celebrate a joyful time of year. Gift-giving has always had good intentions, to help the people who need it, to show love to your friends and family, and to spread joy during the changing of the year. The practice of giving gifts for Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, or even Haunakkah is not inherently bad, but the way that we go about it might be.
Christmas
Gift giving during Christmas is an ancient tradition, beginning with gift giving during the new year at Stonehenge. Later on during the Roman period, Saturnalia was one of the most popular holidays celebrated by the Romans. It was celebrated around the winter solstice and was a time when people feasted, small gifts were exchanged like lambs and toothpicks and many social norms were disregarded. However, once Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire, the tradition of giving gifts was credited to the biblical story of Magi giving gifts of frankincense, gold, and myrrh to baby Jesus.
Gift-giving during the holidays has always been in addition to rowdy feasting and drinking. Until a Turkish saint called St. Nicholas who is said to have helped a poor man pay his daughter’s dowries by putting gold down their chimney, falling into the socks they had hanging to dry on their fireplace, thus the beginning of stockings.
Dutch settlers who came to America brought with them the tale of St. Nicholas, to them SinterKlaas who eventually turned into Santa Claus as we know him today.
The Victorians are the ones to credit with changing Christmas into a family-centered, wholesome holiday. During the age of industrialization it was much easier to acquire small gifts for children and all loved ones, the tradition of having gifts under the tree on Christmas Eve was born. Even today gifts are given on different days in different countries such as St. Nicoulas’s Day in parts of Eastern Europe and Epiphany in catholic countries for example Spain, Italy, and Mexico.
Hanukkah
Traditionally Hanukkah had no gifts associated with it, and historically Jewish people have not paid it much attention. In the 20th century around the time that obscene amounts of Christmas gifts were being given and received, Jewish parents started giving their children gifts for Hanukkah. Large companies found a market in Hanukkah gifts and ran with it. Hanukkah is not the most important holiday in Judaism but it’s one of the most celebrated holidays by Jewish Americans. Gifting during the celebration of Hanukkah would not be the same without the successful commercialization of Christmas.
Commercialization
The values and properties that are the holidays have significantly changed in the past century, causing a wave of overconsumption and waste created during the holidays. In the U.S. alone it’s predicted that Americans will spend about 957.3 billion U.S. during the holidays in 2023. Additionally, since Coivid 19 the culture of shopping has shifted significantly towards online shopping, which has many adverse effects on the planet due to carbon emissions from shipping and the waste of packaging. According to NEEF, Americans returned $816 billion in products in 2022, and shockingly almost 80% of returns get thrown away, not to mention the average American throws away 4.9 pounds of trash per day, the gift of items that will most likely be thrown away or break will only make this number continue to grow. The waste from Christmas decorations, gift wrap, holiday food, and travel all leave a dent in the health of our earth. Gifting extra clutter may also give your loved one the gift of stress and anxiety, in many cases, clutter can lead to increased stress levels which is not what we want our loved ones dealing with during and after the holiday season.
You Can celebrate the holidays Sustainably
There are so many ways to responsibly consume during the holidays while still spreading joy, supporting local or small businesses, and celebrating the end of a year and the start of a new one. Make sure that the gifts that you are giving come from a source that you know produces high-quality pieces that will last, try checking Good on You, a website that gives input on how sustainable different stores are. It’s also important to make sure that the recipient of your gift wants and will utilize your gift. Giving just to give is fun but gifting your loved ones clutter they have to deal with is not. Giving an experience and reusing wrapping and decorations are both ways to watch your waste this holiday season. Some families even wrap their presents in reusable bags. Wrapping in reusable bags allows you to wrap multiple gifts throughout the season as well as repurpose the bags after the holidays have passed. Taking a dive into the history of the holidays and trying old traditions can be another great way to celebrate the holidays more sustainably. I recommend reading Christmas in Aspen by Jill Sheeley to understand the origins of Christmas as we know it. Happy Holidays, and I hope you consider the gift of our planet while holiday shopping this winter season.

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About the Contributor
Sara Kershow, Staff Writer
Sara is a junior and this is her second year writing for the Skier Scribbler, Sara is a part of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and is an avid fan of Taylor Swift. Sara joined the Skier Scribbler because she loves the community and expressing all of her many compelling opinions (and because Gia told her to).

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